Left homeless by fire: a frequent problem in our area

Published: Feb. 13, 2020 at 7:00 PM PST
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The explosion and fire at a West Fourth Street motel on a Saturday afternoon two weeks ago destroyed units occupied by seven residents.

They were immediately homeless. Damage was severe enough to force the evacuation of all 41 of the motel's residents. Today most are still being helped by the Red Cross.

"All of those people are facing the same thing that everyone would face if they suddenly realized they couldn't go home," says Executive Director Zanny Marsh. "So they're going to need replace clothing and food. They are definitely going to need to find an alternative place to stay. And they're going to need all those things just like that."

The number of people displaced in this incident is unusual, but Marsh says the situation isn't.

"We've seen an increase -- a spike really -- in multi-family fires or those that displace dozens at a time.

Figures from the past year bear that out. According to the Reno Fire Department, there have been 50 residential fires resulting in relocation since January of last year. The list of causes contains some surprises.

Thirteen were caused by cigarettes, smoking in bed or not using an ash tray. Twelve were cooking fires. Eight were caused by the misuse of electrical appliances. And just three were caused by heating, such as placing a portable heater too close to something combustible.

Initial investigation indicates the motel explosion and fire was triggered by a gas leak.

"It can happen to you," says Marsh, "and what we really want people to know is that preparedness and prevention will go a long way to get you from emergency to recovery to resilience."

And the Red Cross can help with classes in preparation and even help with the installation of smoke detectors.

If you'd like to help the victims call the Northern Nevada chapter of the American Red Cross at 856-1000 or walk your donation into their offices at 4750 Longley Lane.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020

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